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Insight on...

An Insight Case Study

Risk management
Business continuity
Security management
eSecurity infrastructures

plans and subsequently to develop a

company-wide implementation and testing
programme, in a relationship which continues
today. As Ian Glover, partner, Insight
Consulting, emphasises: “To be truly effective,
business continuity planning is an on-going
commitment, evolving to address new issues
and new problems.”

This is exemplified by much of the work
currently in progress. The emphasis has
switched from an initial series of projects -
designed to put in place effective business
recovery plans across the company - to a
continuous review programme of testing and

Insight Consulting Asked who is the UK’s largest toy and small Today this takes the form of an annual review
electrical appliances retailer, or the second of each department’s needs and requirements
works in to ensure that the relevant recovery plans are
largest retailer of jewellery, many people may
partnership with be surprised to learn that in each case it is fully up to date. A formal sign off is required at
Argos. both business recovery manager and director
Europe’s largest
level, to confirm that the plans agreed are both
catalogue store Established in 1973 and acquired by Great sufficiently robust and will meet the demanding
Universal Stores in 1998, Argos is now targets set.
chain, Argos, to recognised as one of the most powerful
At the same time it must take account of the
develop company- forces in British retailing, a £2billion business
with around 450 retail stores offering up to growing range of services Argos now offers.
wide business Traditional, High Street store operations and
8,500 lines throughout the UK and the Irish
recovery plans Republic. “Reflected in our current ‘Call and Collect’ satellite stores have been
advertising message, ‘what ever you want’,” augmented by a nationwide telephone stock
says Martin Wilson, Facilities Manager with enquiry and reservation service, Argos
overall responsibility for business continuity, Business Solutions (an incentives business),
“Argos has grown through the development Argos Direct (a home delivery service based at
of a simple idea, combining the convenience Acton Gate), a national Wedding List
of home selection – via a twice-yearly Operation, Open digital TV shopping and
catalogue – with the immediacy of High Street Internet shopping.
shopping.” “From a systems perspective,” Glover points
A simple idea perhaps, but logistically a out, “ these recent developments have placed
complex business to manage with many new, more complex demands on the
attendant risks. In 1994, Argos began work company’s disaster recovery capability.
with leading independent specialist Wilson agrees, adding: “Argos has historically
consultancy, Insight Consulting, to review maintained a strong reputation for the quality of
their existing systems and business continuity its operating systems in the retail arena, yet we
are now more dependent than ever on the priority. As a strongly centralised organisation,
resilience of our IT systems.” the head office functions play a critical role in
the operation of the whole company - from
One example is the move toward entering data
stock movements and allocation in distribution
directly onto computer from the telephone or
centres to stock and display in stores - and
from automated stock movements within
thus any incident impacting on head office will
Distribution Centres, with few or no manual
have widespread effect.
records as backup. The impact of loss of data
becomes more significant and traditional Within each department, an impact analysis
recovery from off-site backup’s do not meet the and recovery requirement definition exercise
business recovery requirements. was conducted by Insight, with requirements
then translated into an invitation to tender (ITT)
Recovery of voice services is also critical and
for the provision of standby work areas. The
therefore the SDX recovery strategy within
ITT responses were then analysed and third
Argos’ call centre operations must be timely
party contracts negotiated, with systems
and effective. In order to provide automatic
connectivity and infrastructure services facilities
call distribution (ACD) and, in the near future,
implemented. In each case a work area was
integrated voice recognition (IVR) additional
allocated within the new, separately located
standby SDXs are now sited at Argos’ business
business recovery centre and the re-routing of
recovery centre, to ensure that all the facilities
the telephone exchange organised.
provided by the switches at the call centre can
be replicated during a disaster situation. “This was a complex issue,” recalls Glover,
“especially with regard to Argos Business
A company-wide crisis control manual is under
Solutions, where for example calls had to be
constant review and refinement to ensure that it
answered in a precisely defined manner and
continues to meet current and future business
specific contractual obligations met with regard
needs and to reflect lessons learned from the
to third party companies for whom Argos
testing and invocation of existing recovery
managed incentive programmes.”
Supporting business continuity plans were
developed and agreed with senior
What did Insight find upon arrival in 1994?
management and fully tested before
“Argos were in many ways ‘ahead of the game’
implementation. The result in each case has
compared to many organisations,” recalls
been an all-embracing set of recovery plans; in
Glover, “with systems recovery already both
an emergency evacuation for example this now
well-defined and regularly tested. In other
goes beyond simple fire alarm procedures to
parts of the operation however plans were less
include roll call check lists, alternative
well-established – business recovery strategies
assembly points, emergency services
based on full replication in standby mobile
infrastructure and staff counselling procedures.
accommodation for example were not always
practical.” Distribution centres and call centres (which
have increased in criticality over time) were
Wilson, who joined Argos as a store manager
considered next and a similar process of
in 1978 before moving to Head Office five
impact analysis and recovery planning
years later, agrees: “Argos had, since the early
undertaken. “During the design and
1980s, developed its own business continuity
construction of our warehouses,” confirms
plans, focusing primarily on IT recovery. By
Wilson, “a great deal of attention has been paid
1994 however, it had become increasingly
to risk reduction measures - from zoning to fire
apparent that we needed additional specialist
and water detection and fire suppression -
skills to help us develop other aspects of
minimising the level of impact that could be
business recovery in the event of systems
experienced from any one incident.
failure, flooding or fire.”
In the event of an incident affecting a
In agreeing a plan of activity it was recognised
distribution centre computer modelling would
at the outset that business recovery planning
be used to re-route deliveries from the
for the Head Office functions should take
damaged distribution centre and to re-allocate
store supply, together with an increased the centre at the business recovery centre was About Insight
level of home and direct supplier delivery.” underway. Overseen by a six-strong Argos Insight Consulting is the
team and with Insight providing direct leading independent provider
Similarly, where an incident occurs in a single
assistance, 70 fully operational call centre of services and solutions for
store, continuity plans are designed to
positions were set up, to be operated by staff information security, business
minimise customer inconvenience during the
with no previous call centre experience. The continuity and risk
recovery period, by ensuring stock levels are
usual two-week training course was management.
increased at stores within close proximity to
compressed into one half-hour session and We offer a complete, end-to-
meet the additional demand. The
logging on was phased to avoid overloading end portfolio encompassing:
Merchandise Division holds accurate profiles
the system.
of each store for all product lines held which • Research
can be overlaid onto other stores in the area if Within a week – and with the original
• Consultancy
that store has to be closed for any reason. computer problem resolved – the two call
centres working in parallel had cleared the • Testing
backlog of orders. “Though the experience of • Implementation
“Full management buy-in and comprehensive
living through such a crisis is perhaps one
training programmes have also been key • Training
that employees will never forget,” says Wilson,
contributory factors to the success of this
“we met all pre-determined recovery targets • Recruitment
whole process,” believes Glover.
and learned valuable lessons along the way.” • Managed services
“Familiarisation with the business recovery
centre - starting with senior management and Partnership Insight is BS7799 certified, is
filtering down to all staff - has also been In summary, Argos takes the issue of an S-CAT Category 7 supplier
essential,” Wilson adds, “for until we had a business continuity very seriously. Working and subscribes to the CESG
tangible and demonstrable recovery facility, it with Insight it has addressed all the major Listed Advisor Scheme (CLAS)
was very difficult to obtain practical recovery elements of the business, ensuring that and CHECK services.
plans.” appropriate recovery strategies and plans are
If you’d like to discuss how
in place that both meet the requirements of
Argos take staff to the recovery centre both to Insight could help you improve
the business and can be cost-justified. These
test and review recovery strategies and plans. security in your organisation, email
are underpinned by comprehensive crisis
Regular exhibitions also demonstrate the us at insight@insight.co.uk
management procedures, effective testing
recovery process, describing incidents and or visit our web site at
schedules and regular awareness-raising
near incidents which have occurred. This www.insight.co.uk
exercises, designed to protect the interests of
helps with familiarisation and adds a valuable
customers, staff and shareholders.
element of realism to the process.
Throughout, Insight has enabled skills transfer “Argos originally selected Insight,” believes
to take place, documenting all aspects of the Glover, “because of our specialist experience
on-going programme in a clearly and logical approach, viewing business
understandable and maintainable format. continuity from a practical, commercial
On several occasions in recent years,
problems have demanded the invocation of Wilson is impressed with what has been
Argos’ business continuity plans. The most achieved: “We regard Insight not as a supplier
potentially damaging of these arose in but as a true partner, helping us to solve
Autumn 1998 with a major computer failure at problems pragmatically and cost-effectively.
the company’s Acton Gate call centre. The result may not be business recovery
‘made easy’, but it has laid the foundation for
As part of the recovery plan, within 24 hours Insight Consulting
us to tackle any problem in a controlled and
the establishment of a supplementary call Churchfield House
effective way.”
5 The Quintet
Churchfield Road
Walton on Thames
Surrey KT12 2TZ

Business continuity
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)1932 241000

Fax: +44 (0)1932 244590